6 College Vacations Every Student Should Experience

Looking for the perfect student travel experience? There are almost as many options as there are students, with travel options to fit every interest and personality. Some types of trips, though, are a natural fit for students. Volunteering vacations, backpacking across Europe or South America, and sports adventures all help young adults learn more about themselves and develop confidence while learning about the world. Here are some of the best vacation experiences for students, along with tips on how to find the right trip for you.


Image via Flickr by Visions Service Adventures

For people on a tight budget, volunteer work offers an opportunity to trade labor for food and lodging. These experiences also let students dig into careers they might be interested in, with choices ranging from wildlife preservation and anthropology to teaching, marketing, and hospitality. Workaway.info and HelpX.com are the leaders in the self-catering voluntourism industry, but these sites are just clearinghouses for opportunities. They don’t offer a lot of screening or assistance; it’s up to you to vet the opportunities you’re interested in, so ask lots of questions and research your host outside the site.

If you want a more guided experience with some oversight, try Goeco.org or Earthwatch. Whatever site you choose, be aware that voluntourism is not without problems. Volunteers are often taking jobs away from locals and provide an unstable influence in the lives of children. Read up on the issues before you choose this route.

Adventure Travel 

Athletes and adventurers love to test themselves against the elements in exotic settings. Parasailing, mountain biking, surfing mountain treks, sailing adventures, and rock climbing are all popular choices. Keep in mind that in many countries, you are engaging in these sports at your own risk. If you come from a country where businesses are inspected, need permits to operate, and fear litigation if someone gets hurt, you may assume that any advertised activity is relatively safe, but this is not always the case. Ask lots of questions and look for evidence of a commitment to safety, like helmets and life jackets. Getting student travel insurance online is always a good idea, but it’s vital if you’ll be risking injury in a foreign country.


Roaming from hostel to hostel across South America, Europe, or Southeast Asia is a rite of passage for students in some countries. Americans and Canadians are starting to discover the world as young adults, too. Hostelworld.com is a great site for finding cheap beds around the world. Students touring Europe often turn to “Wwoofing” (World Wide Opportunities on organic farms) and work as farm hands to support their travel habit. Couchsurfing apps can direct you to free lodging anywhere in the world, but can be dangerous as it puts you alone in a host’s home with a stranger.

Learning Adventures

If you want a more structured trip with a learning component, look for a global learning adventure. Smithsonian offers trips that are specifically designed for students, including mountain treks, wildlife conservation, and service trips. There’s also the Semester at Sea program that puts you on a ship and uses the world as your classroom for an entire semester. Your university probably offers student group trips around different topic areas as well.

Semester Abroad

Many students arrange to spend a semester abroad. Europe is the most popular destination, and with the ease of travel between European Union countries, you can spend a semester in France or Spain and explore quite a bit of Europe during breaks and long weekends.

Mission Trips

Many church and social service groups offer service trips to developing nations. You might help build houses, install plumbing, plant trees, or serve local communities in other ways. Look for a trip that builds on skills you already have and will let you spend time in the community learning the way of life of the people there.

Young adults traveling without their families are often having their first real solo experience. Taking on the world is a great way to build skills and confidence while making memories and enjoying an adventure. Adventure travel, learning adventures, service trips, and backpacking are all great ways to find your strength as a young adult.